Report from Covelo

Back from my adventure in Covelo: the katazome workshop with John Marshall. The road to Covelo, CA follows the Eel River, officially Wild and Scenic. A wonderful place to swim too!


Classes take place in John’s home/studio, a restored flour mill. The dates on the facade are 1888-1914-1999.



A few insights:  Yes, I have been making my rice paste too thick, and the raw paste too dry. Revelation: golf balls and doughnuts are unnecessary. I really like this! Here, the raw paste is ready to steam.


I have been working with freeze-dried indigo this summer, and it was great to observe the preparation of the vat and then the re-heating of the vat the next day. Here are pictures from our indigo experience.

Introducing the freeze-dried “instant” indigo to the vat:


Here are two ways of skimming the oxidized bubbles, “aibana” or indigo blossoms, from the top of the vat, which is necessary unless you want the dark spots of bloom on your work.

skimming with a soft muslin cloth
skimming with a screen strainer

Using the 2nd method is great — you can then dry the bubbles and use them as indigo pigments along with the soymilk.

attaching cloth to frame for dipping

Ready to dip the cloth.  (That’s my Covelo house-mate Eva Pietzcker, a printmaker from Berlin who makes beautiful woodblock prints in the Japanese tradition of mokuhanga.) John has a rope and pulley system, used primarily for larger pieces of work which need the larger ceramic vat (which you can see behind John). These containers are from China and were originally designed to hold soy sauce.


The cloth goes in slowly … count to three … pull it out and over the outside edge of the vat to drip. You want to avoid introducing oxygen. John’s rule of thumb: the rice paste resist can withstand three brief dips, then must hang to dry before further dunking. If you want it darker, repeat this until you achieve the depth of color desired. Observe the paste — you want to stop before it starts to break down.


See the lovely dark green which will turn blue as it oxidizes …


Afternoon break most days featured home-made shaved ice! John has a lovely Japanese cast-iron hand-crank machine with gears – the ice is held by a vice-grip-like mechanism on top of a flat blade. A hand crank turns the blade and the shaved ice falls into the bowl below. We tried it with powdered green Japanese tea and sugar syrup on top; and with home-made blackberry sauce! Yum!

The hot dry air in Covelo is perfect for working outside, stretching fabric between uprights of the Wisteria arbor.

wisteria arbor and yard
stretching cloth with shinshi

Oh, and I must not forget Nutmeg, the cat.

clouds above Colorado

Countdown to California

In less than 24 hours I’ll be on my way to California! I’m taking another workshop with John Marshall and look forward to new learning, and to seeing  Sacramento, Covelo, Eureka, the Pacific and the winding roads! Hopefully this will also mean a break from the heat and humidity  😀
Last weekend in Loring Park —  90 degrees both days, humidity about the same — very uncomfortable! Here are a few pics:


I met another fiber artist working with natural dyes — Dawnette Davis of Grand Rapid’s Minnesota (no website …). I bought a beautiful silk scarf from her that was dyed with iron-modified cochineal and imprinted with rusted objects….the iron modifier created a beautiful grayish violet/blue. Here’s a photo. Beautiful work!


I’m busy in the kitchen in between trip preparation tasks trying to put away some of the veggie garden harvest. Yesterday it was two big batches of pesto. Today it’s salsa and cutting up oodles of zucchini for the freezer. My husband planted many Gladiola bulbs and so we have them all over the house as well as garden. Trimming bouquets and deadheading in the garden today it occurred to me to freeze some blossoms and then try India Flint‘s ice flower dyeing technique when I return. Don’t you think freezing flower blossoms for dye is a brilliant idea? I really look forward to seeing what kind of color these yield …

gladiola blossoms

I am not bringing the computer so expect more on the blog after August 23rd when I return!

Inspiring raw materials, plus Loring Park Art Festival

This week I bought a piece of handmade Japanese Kozo, cut it up into 10 pieces and then made my own momigami, or “strong paper.” This is done by coating the sheets with konnyaku starch, which comes from the Devil’s Tongue root. It’s a powder you mix with water, brush on both sides of the paper and then crumple the paper into a loose ball.


While the paper is still damp you crumple it more and work the surfaces together. The more you work with it, the more like cloth it becomes. Then spread each sheet out to dry flat on a table.

This treatment makes it receptive to dyes, and easy to stitch. I get my kozo and konnyaku from Wet Paint Art in St. Paul, and they get it from the Japanese Paper Place in Toronto. (Check my Resources Links.)


I wanted it flat (not perfectly) so I could mount my silk pieces to it, so I ironed it. I really like the wrinkled surface and the color of the kozo. And it’s a dream to hand stitch.

This Saturday and Sunday I’ll be at Loring Park Art Festival.